CHICAGO -- Tyler Flowers was given the day off Sunday in an effort to recharge his batteries and clear his mind.
The catcher has been in a massive dry spell, going hitless over his last 22 at-bats. Most alarming of all is that he has 18 strikeouts during the hitless stretch.
He has just three hits in his last 46 trips to the plate (.065) over his last 15 games, and his hot start, when he was batting as high as .388 with a .431 on-base percentage on April 25, is but a memory now.
Since May 25 alone, Flowers' batting average has plummeted from .312 to its current .250 mark and his OBP has gone from .370 to .313.
Backup catcher Adrian Nieto, one of the pleasant surprises on the 2014 club, was given the start at catcher Sunday.
“A little combo thing, manager Robin Ventura said when asked if the change at catcher was to give Flowers a breather, or to give Nieto another opportunity. “I think the way (Flowers) has been swinging, he’s been working on things, timing, mechanical stuff, and it can wear on you so it’s a combo."
Nieto has been used primarily as the catcher for starts made by veteran left-hander John Danks. Because Nieto had never played above the Single-A level before this season, the idea was that catching an established starter like Danks, with his set way of pitching, would be easier for him than guiding a younger pitcher through a game.
Putting Nieto with a starter like Andre Rienzo on Sunday shows that Ventura is more comfortable giving Nieto some advanced challenges.
Nieto was a Rule 5 pickup by the White Sox this winter and his odds of sticking on the major league roster the entire season were long. He was left exposed to the Rule 5 process by his former team, the Washington Nationals, because he was an established minor leaguer who wasn’t protected on the team’s 40-man roster.
But if he isn’t in the major leagues all season, he has to be offered back to his former club.
Nieto has played in just 23 of the White Sox’s 69 games before play Sunday, but he has already proven himself to be a keeper. He came into the game against the Royals with a .271 batting average and a .327 on-base percentage.
He has more strikeouts (20) than total bases (16), but for a player jumping two levels to get to the major leagues and who is just 24, the long-term potential is positive.
Flowers will remain the everyday catcher, though, and it is up to him to return to being the more of a contact, line-drive hitter like he was when the season began.
“If I knew (how to get out of it) I wouldn’t be struggling; I don’t know,” Flowers said. “Just keep working.”